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Shaun White impresses at MultiCare 'Do Something Healthy'Photo by Kazuko Wohlers
It’s rare for people to be more impressed by a world-class athlete after they meet him, but that was the consensus after Shaun White’s visit to Tacoma on Tuesday.
The gold-medal winning snowboarder captivated a sold-out audience of more than 1,000 people at MultiCare Health System’s 11th annual “Do Something Healthy” celebration and fitness fair.
The 24-year-old White (pictured below with MultiCare Health System President and CEO Diane Cecchettini, RN) shared personal stories and answered questions from kids on topics such as handling peer pressure, dealing with stress and staying fit with a busy schedule.
For an athlete who flies so high, White was incredibly grounded. He credits his parents.
In January, White ranked No. 2 on Bloomberg’s Power 100 ranking of the most marketable athletes in the world – above of stars such as LeBron James, Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady and David Beckham.
On Tuesday afternoon, the generous White brought gifts and smiles to about 15 young patients at MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Center.
White signed autographs, posed for pictures with families, and let people hold his gold medal from the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. – one of his two Olympic gold medals and 11 X Games gold medals.
At the hospital, one young boy proudly showed White his new toy truck, which White held and admired. Another girl told White that she liked riding horses better than riding snowboards. White surprised one young fan when he shared a ride in the hospital’s public elevator.
White on competition: "I could go win the X Games, then come home and lose at checkers and I'm furious. I can't turn it off.”
White on choosing good friends: "It's nice to know who you are and who your friends are. The people around you are just as important as yourself."
Hardest thing about fame? "Going to the grocery store. There are always kids in hooded sweatshirts lurking and whispering: What cereal is he buying? I always approach them – Hey, guys!"
On disguises: “I’ll put my hair up in a bun sometimes. It’s not the coolest look. Then I feel more embarrassed when somebody does recognize me: ‘I saw Shaun White and he was wearing this bun.’ ”
Why he doesn't listen to music during a snowboarding run: "If I crash while listening to a favorite song, I could never listen to that song again. It would hurt too much."
Before the event, 7-year-old Cecilyn Ramsey and her parents met White to get an autograph and a picture.
Cecilyn asked White if he felt different growing up with a heart defect. His answer was that it was a little bit of a challenge. He told a story that he had to wear a big heart monitor on a belt at school, so that was a little difficult.
“When we first met Shaun, he was just so warm and friendly,” said Rodes of Puyallup, whose kids met White backstage before the vent. “You could just tell he was a genuine guy.”
“I shook his hand and he signed the back of my shirt,” Elijah said.
White had been through two open-heart surgeries as a baby, so Elijah asked him how he gets up the nerve to try those crazy tricks. Gracie asked him about how to stay healthy and do your best.
“To have somebody who is so amazingly seasoned and making ground in a sport, who has gone through a lot of the challenges that he has, it's pretty cool,” Camille Rodes said. “I think Elijah looks up to Shaun as a hero.”
White gave these responses to the five questions, which have been edited for length:
Question: What tips do you have about being healthy for teenagers with a busy schedule?
White: Plan ahead. If you don't even buy chips or those sort of snacks, all of a sudden the only thing to eat is fruit or vegetables. And join team sports. I played soccer when I was younger, and loved running around and making friends.
Question: How do you handle peer pressure?
White: That's tough. I always assumed if someone was trying to pressure me into something, that if they're a true friend they're not going to do that. Go with your instincts and go with what you know.
Question: How do you get up the nerve to try crazy tricks when you are worried you might get hurt?
White: When I was younger, I was told that I couldn't do this or that. I slowly started to do things -- I didn't just jump into it. I slowly started to get comfortable with my limits. Do everything within your limits. You have to work your way up. … I always project something positive before I go into any situation. I'll do all these cool tricks on a snowboard, then I'll trip running up the stairs.
Question: What’s the most important thing you do to stay healthy so you can do your best?
White: Staying healthy is a lot of different things. When you eat is just as important as what you eat. Make sure you don't skip meals, or fill yourself too full at night before you go to sleep. I always take a stance on health and wellness as subtle changes, something you can maintain and stick with.
Question: What do you do when you get stressed out?
White: I do a couple different things. To be honest, when I get overwhelmed and in a situation where I'm just frustrated, I’ll go watch a movie or play some video games. I promote being outside and being active, but your downtime is just as important. Put on a good movie or a song. Recently I picked up the guitar. I usually have to be doing something, so that allows me to be sitting and doing something. You need to find what sets you at ease, whether it's a song or a phone call to a friend. I take a guitar with me everywhere I go.
Photo slideshow: MultiCare brings Shaun White to Tacoma
Posted on Feb 9, 2011 in Special Events